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British schoolchildren take on solar-powered challenge down-under

05 October 2015

A team of British schoolchildren from Ardingly College, West Sussex, will be the first in Europe to compete in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – a gruelling race in a solar-powered electric vehicle they designed and built themselves.

Five intrepid Ardingly College students are about to head to Australia to race their student-built solar-powered electric car 3,020 gruelling kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide. 

Unveiling the car, which has taken his team of fellow pupils three years to complete, student James Price said: “The last 36 months have seen 80 of us balance GCSEs, A Levels and the International Baccalaureate whilst working round-the-clock to build what one industry mentor called  ‘a phenomenal feat of engineering’ – the creation of our own Cruiser class Solar Electric Vehicle.”

The modified Lotus 7 chassis is fitted with a custom-built composite shell and 24 percent efficient silicon photovoltaic solar panels. Regulations stipulate that a Cruiser class vehicle must be practical, have four wheels and upright seating for passengers. It needs to comply with no less than 366 regulations, or risk exclusion from the world’s ultimate solar marathon. 

David Smith, Chief Financial Officer, Rolls-Royce, has praised the students’ efforts: "The solar car is a tremendously ambitious project and a great challenge for Ardingly pupils and staff, in an exciting area of technology. I look forward to seeing them on the road crossing the Australian desert!"

When the race starts on October 18th, the drivers will be prepared to face hazards such as bush fires, road trains, cattle grids and kangaroos, all of which in the past have caused teams to flip their vehicles or swerve out of control. Temperatures of over 45°C have been recorded during the race and the inside of a Solar EV can be 10°C warmer. With no air conditioning, drivers will need to stay hydrated.  

Matt Price, Student Team Manager said: “Once we clear quarantine and scrutineering, the real adventure takes off... 3,000km, six days in the Outback, three EV drivers, two support vehicles, tents, snakes, spiders, and kangaroos...!”

Ardingly’s drivers are Mechanics Manager Holly Hill (17), from Houston, Texas,  Media Manager James Price (18), Luke Smith (18) and Henry Hinder (18), all from Sussex.  Team Manager Matt Price (17), also from Sussex, completes the support team. 

The Ardingly Solar project has received over £100,000 worth of financial and practical support from industry and sponsors.  These include DHL, McLaren, GTR, Time24, Elekta and Lincoln Binns, whose CEO John Binns has been the team’s ‘Mentor in Industry’. The pupils also received SolidWorks training from another of their sponsors - NTCADCAM.
Ardingly’s Head of Physics and project supervisor Dr Andrew Spiers says the three year task has transported industry into the classroom, helped pupils recognise the imperatives of sustainable transport, understand the importance of green technologies, learn above and beyond the curriculum, acquire new skills in business, design and manufacture and, above all, “it has empowered students to make a difference.”

For more information or to track the team's progress, click here.

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